Homer 's Odyssey is certainly a primarily masculine story, an epic poem centered on the heroic deeds of a universal figure, Odysseus, who is seen returning from the Trojan War in the company of his male comrades. As with its companion work The Iliad, The Odyssey describes the man 's world of war, male camaraderie, and heroic struggle against natural and manmade forces. Seen in this context, the female characters of the epic are decidedly secondary; apart from the fact that Odysseus ' wife Penelope is the source and symbol of his longing to return home, the story does not seem to turn upon their decisions or deeds.
At the same time, The Odyssey contains fascinating and perceptive portraits of women, and in a mythic sense, the most powerful figure in Odysseus ' world is his protecting goddess Athene, who tells mighty Zeus at the beginning of the poem, "...the heart in me is torn for the sake of wise Odysseus,/ unhappy man, who till far from his friends, is suffering/grief, on the sea-washed island, the navel of all the waters..." (Lattimore, 1967:28). The goddess of wisdom and cunning shields and sponsors Odysseus, who is lured by temptation, beguiled in sex, and guided to his homecoming by women characters who are, in their own way, as diverse and fully-imagined as the male characters in the poem.
In this essay, we will examine all the major women characters in the Odyssey, looking at not only Penelope the loyal wife and Athene the protectress, but at other female figures who befriend or beset the hero: the enchantress Circe, the princess Nausikaa, the nymph Kalypso, and his mother Antikleia, whose shade he encounters in his journey through the underworld. In addition, we will review...
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...he flirtation between Nausikaa and Odysseus continues as he envies the man who will become her husband, and she wishes for a man "like this one" on her marriage day. She is more discrete when the enter the city, fearing gossip,
And once they arrive at the palace, however, Odysseus and Nausikaa are on far more formal terms. When their meeting is revealed, he defends her honor and innocence. Odysseus asks Nausikaa to pray for his homecoming, and acknowledges that he owes her his life. After a long narrative in which he relates his preceding history to the Phaiakians, and the great sporting contests in which Odysseus finally emerges triumphant, Alkinoos like Nausikaa wishes she could find a husband such as he. But by now it is clear to them that he is a nobleman with a wife and home far away, so with good wishes the Phaikians send him home on board one of their vessels.
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